Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) works for Asbestos Free India inspired by trade union leader Purnendu Majumadar. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. For Details:1715krishna@gmail.com, oshindia@yahoo.in

Saturday, May 28, 2011

BANI Welcomes Siddiqui's Call for Ban on Asbestos, a hidden time bomb

Press Note

BANI Welcomes Siddiqui's Call for Ban on Asbestos, a hidden time bomb

Modi's Statement 'No health hazard from asbestos products' Condemned


BANI Awaits Inquiry Report by Industry Dept into demand for closure of the
proposed asbestos plant


New Delhi/Patna/28/5/2011: Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) appreciates the demand of Bihar's Leader of Opposition, Abdul Bari Siddiqui seeking ban on asbestos products and plants on health grounds and it condemns the unscientific statement of Sushil Kumar Modi, Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister.

The villagers campaign against the three asbestos plants of Chennai based Ramco Industries Ltd. and Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd in Bihiya and Gidha, Kiolwar, Bhojpur seeks stoppage of these plants. Meanwhile, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, Ara has expressed support for the ongoing ban asbestos campaign in Bhojpur.

It must be noted that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists conducted a nine-month investigation and found that a global network of lobby groups have spent nearly $100 million since the mid-1980s to preserve the international market for asbestos, a known carcinogen that’s taken millions of lives and is banned in 55 countries. These findings are easily available on the internet.

After a Citizens March in Patna led by left parties in February 2011 in support of the struggle by Khet Bachao Jeewan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee, the Chief Minister's Secretariat ordered an inquiry by Secretary, Department of Industry into the peoples’ demand for closure of the proposed asbestos plant at Muzaffarpur. BANI was part of the delegation that had submitted the memorandum of demands to the Chief Minister's Office. The report of this inquiry is still awaited.
Revealing fissures in the ruling coalition of Janta Dal (United) and Bhartiya Janta Party, while the Chief Minister has ordered an inquiry into the demand for closure of asbestos plant, the Deputy Chief Minister has alloted land for four asbestos plants.

The Janta Dal (United) led alliance seems to be pursuing the path of West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who awarded the ‘Environment Excellence Award’ to an asbestos company (UAL-Bengal) and met with electoral defeat.

As part of the same lobbying efforts, Bihar Industry Association, Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (CACPMA) and Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association of India (ASCMA) have pressurized the Bihar Government to provide support for asbestos industry unmindful of the consequences of exposure from the killer fibers of asbestos. The asbestos industry is knowingly exposing unsuspecting workers, their families and consumers with impunity because of undue political patronage.

While the medical and financial relief (compensation) for the illness of workers, their families and consumers must be borne by the companies in question, in India because of incestuous relationship with some ruling party politicians, the asbestos companies have escaped liability and have not been made accountable.

Referring to pro-asbestos campaign unleashed by the asbestos industry, Jukka Takala, Director, European Agency for Safety & Health at Work who was formerly with International Labour Organisation said,“It’s totally unethical. It’s almost criminal. Asbestos cannot be used safely. It is clearly a carcinogen. It kills people.”

Dr Barry Castleman, the author of "Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects" which is deemed the most authoritative text book on asbestos says, “Anybody who talks about safe and controlled asbestos use is either a liar or a fool”*. Dr Castleman is a fellow of the Italy based The Collegium Ramazzini is an independent, international academy founded in 1982 by Irving J. Selikoff, Cesare Maltoni and other eminent scientists.

It must be noted that Dr Irving Selikoff, Director, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York had been studying the effects of occupational asbestos since the 1950s. He described the lethal dust of the fibrous mineral as "a hidden time bomb". He received awards from the American Public Health Association, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the American Cancer Society. Even at the age of 75, he continued to research the effects of asbestos. He died on May 20, 1992. BANI salutes Dr Selikoff's contribution in the field of occupational and environmental health.

Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister must pay heed to the following points and withdraw his asbestos promotion policy that is denigrating Bihar's stature as state with scientific temper:

1. Union Environment Ministry's 19 page Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) on page 12 that reads: "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out". This is available on Ministry's website. This finds resonance in Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order of 21st January, 2011.

2. In its order Hon’ble Court’s bench of Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar observed in para 15, “the Government has already presented the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill specifically notices that the white asbestos is highly carcinogenic and it has been so reported by the World Health Organisation. In India, it is imported without any restriction while even its domestic use is not preferred by the exporting countries.” Hon’ble Court further notes, “Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported 95% of the white asbestos, it mined out of which 43% was shipped to India. In view of these facts, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative materials. The Bill is yet to be passed but it is clearly demonstrated that the Government is required to take effective steps to prevent hazardous impact of use of asbestos.”

3. The WHO and ILO Resolutions have called for elimination of future use of asbestos. The relevant documents are availble on their website. The ILO Resolution is attached and WHO Factsheet on elimination of asbestos-related diseases is available here
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html

4. The cancer causing nature of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) fibres has been acknowledged since 1977 by the International bodies, such as International Agency for Research on Cancer and the WHO. In these circumstances, we find that the panel remained well within the bounds in its discretion in finding that chrysotile cement products pose a risk to human life or health.

5. The Kerala State Human Rights Commission on 31st January, 2009 considered the problem created by asbestos and directed that the use of asbestos for roofing the school buildings and hospitals should be stopped and they should be replaced with country tiles. The Kerala State Human Rights Commission, while giving these directions, has considered the judgment of the Supreme Court.

6. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) too has passed an order in Case No:693/30/97-98 recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful. The Annual Report of NHRC 2003-2004 refers to a Report entitled “Asbestos – Health and Environment – an in-depth Study “submitted by the Institute of Public Health Engineers, India. The study underlines that safe and controlled use of asbestos is not possible. The asbestos related disease are incurable and fatal. Human biology is same everywhere if the asbestos is deemed hazardous in the developed countries, it must be deemed so in Bhojpur, Bihar as well.

7. In such a backdrop, it is apt for the Bihar Government to take a
position on asbestos of all kinds including chrysotile asbestos and
recommend its phase out to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA)

8. As Union Health Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Parliament that
"long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of
asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma". How can Bihar's Health Minister, Ashwini Kumar Chaubey and Bihar's Environment Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi be ignorant about it? How can Dr C P Thakur, former Union Health Minister from Bihar maintain a studied silence on such a critical public health issue. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar must verify the truth about incurable cancer causing nature of any type of asbestos from Smt Sushma Swaraj.

It is widely acknowledged that Industry-funded science on chrysotile began
in earnest in the mid-1960s, when damning studies on asbestos cast unwanted scrutiny on Quebec’s then-thriving mines. Minutes of the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association’s November 1965 meeting suggest that the group saw the tobacco industry as a paradigm: It “was recalled that the tobacco industry launched its own (research) program and it now knows where it stands. Industry is always well advised to look after its own problems.”

The Canada based Chrysotile Institute and its network stretches from Patna, New Delhi to Mexico City to the city of Asbest in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Its message is that asbestos can be used safely under mythical “controlled” conditions. As a result, asbestos use is growing rapidly in countries such as India, prompting health experts to warn of future epidemics of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an aggressive malignancy that usually attacks the lining of the lungs.

Besides three asbestos plants in Bhojpur, some of the other upcoming plants in Bihar are:
• Andhra Pradesh based Hyderabad Industries Ltd at Kumarbagh Industrial
Area, West Champaran.
• Kolkata based Balmukund Cement & Roofings Ltd at Chainpur-Bishunpur,
Marwan, Muzaffarpur.
• Kolkata based UAL Industries Ltd at Goraul, Vaishali in the name of
UAL-Bihar.
• Rajasthan based Infrastructure Ltd at Pandaul Industrial Area, Madhubani.

The opposition parties have joined hands to oppose these asbestos plants. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLA from Jagdishpur Dinesh Singh has also raised the demand of closure of asbestos plants in Bhojpur and other places in the state assembly.

*For Details*: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb:
09818089660, E-mail: krishna2777@gmail.com, banasbestosbhojpur@gmail.com,
Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com,Web: www.toxicswatch.com

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